Monday, November 14, 2016


"This is not normal."

John Oliver, during the last episode of his HBO series' third season, recommended that we fight the normalization of the Donald J. Trump presidency by sticking a post-it-note on our refrigerator. It should say "This is not normal.

Because it's not. 

Yet over the weekend, I had a few friends tell me that everything will be okay. As if only six days after the country was completely jolted into a new reality by the 2016 election results, we should all #moveon. As if they had been briefed directly and assured by the president-elect on policy in his Fifth Avenue penthouse and felt more comfortable about a Donald J. Trump presidency. Just you and him talking about Mexicans, gay people and Steve Bannon. 

"You can't know that," I responded. Because they couldn't. There's no way to see this as a glass half full just as there is no way to see this as a glass half empty. [Although I would say that there's a stronger precedent for the half empty scenario.] This is not normal, we have to all remember. And that means sometimes being inconvenienced by impassioned screeds. Well intentioned screeds. 

Because I presumptuously believe this is minimally what needs to be done when things are not normal. Yet, over the weekend, I also saw people talking about the "unfollow" option on Facebook as if they had been inconvenienced by readings things that did not align with their thinking. Or worse, they felt their Facebook feed had gotten too "melodramatic."

I'd like to reiterate that it's only been six days. It is not time yet to return to adorable puppies and cute photos of your kids. We don't have the luxury of moving on just yet. We are willfully irresponsible if we assume everything will be okay. We are ignoring history's many paradigms of intolerance and hate. We are just as culpable for falling into passivity if and when we're made to feel guilty for feeling an unquenchable ire deep within our bellies.  

In fact, noted writer and philosopher Leon Weiseltier wrote in the Washington Post that we should "stay angry." 

"Difficult times are giving way to dark times," he writes, "And dark times require a special lucidity and a special vigilance and a special ferocity about principle. We must not lose our faith in moral progress and in social progress, but we must remember that moral progress and social progress are not linear and unimpeded and inevitable." Meaning, we are already taking our liberties for granted. 

And as Donald Trump has showed us in just the last twenty-four hours with the appointment of Breitbart's Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, we can take nothing for granted. Especially not normalcy. Because a man known for his poisonous invective now has the ear and the attention of the President of the United States. A hate monger who has on record showed his disdain for immigrants, Muslims, Jews and women has been embraced by the office of the White House in a way that should unsettle everyone, regardless of faith and culture and demographic. 

This is not normal. 

And amidst all of this, where is the universal outcry? Why aren't religious leaders who spoke out against Donald Trump during his campaign screaming out now? Where are the Trump supporters who insisted on their candidate being the furthest from being a racist? Where are my friends who groan about the Facebook rants and threaten to brandish the unfollow button like it were noise canceling headphones? This is a very tangible threat to our liberty. Why aren't we all literally and appropriately overreacting as such? 

Last night, Shana told me she was scared. Not worried. Not even concerned. She was scared.  We talked about escape plans. We talked about procuring weapons. We talked about a great many things, but none of them was about hope. It's intense to have these conversations in 2016. In a world of irreverent nightly talk shows. In a world in which we have made so many progressive strides. 

Shana wondered aloud how we could watch normalcy erode and that so many people can be okay with it. Move on, they say. Everything will be fine. 

I remember hearing a myth once that women forget the pains associated with labor so they would be more amenable to having children again. And I couldn't help think that this is also very much how we process history; if humanity would internalize and absorb all of our collective pains from throughout time, optimism would be impossible. Procreation would be pointless. Hell, it would be difficult to ever smile. And so we almost have to forget. So we can live. So we can go on. 

But this means we also have to experience hate and intolerance firsthand for that is the only way we can be awoken from our apathetic slumbers. And that is what is happening right now. The trade off. 

This is not normal.